42 days after the game was initially scheduled, Everton and Manchester United completed the concluding fixture of the Continental Cup group stage, ending in a 1–0 victory for the Toffees (see additional note below regarding qualification information).
Despite needing a bit of fortune to advance into the knockout stage, which the team eventually fell short of, the aim was always a home win for Everton. “We’ve always said we want to win every game in the Continental Cup,” said Everton Manager Willie Kirk ahead of the game. “We will be going out to win this game.”
The contest started well for the hosts; Lucy Graham made a strong tackle in the middle of the pitch, winning possession for Everton. Graham’s defensive prowess saw Izzy Christiansen open on the edge of United’s 18 but failed to get a shot away due to a quick recovery from the visitors.
Ten minutes later, in the 16th, a barrage of United crosses were keenly dealt with by Damaris Egurrola in the heart of Everton’s defense. Damaris again displayed her defensive qualities, filling in for the injured Rikke Sevecke at center-back, a position she is still learning.
As play continued, both teams attempted to establish momentum going forward while also dropping bodies back to defend. In the 35th, play was stopped due to an injury concern regarding Everton midfielder Maéva Clemaron, who was the recipient of a rough tackle while challenging for a ball in United’s half of the field.
And the aggressive play wouldn’t stop with Clemaron. Six minutes later, Christiansen went down after suffering an extremely late challenge in the middle of the park. Despite early concern over the tackle, Christiansen quickly rose to her feet and stood over the ball to assume her duties as master of set pieces for the Toffees.
Just minutes into the second half, Hayley Raso — who was brought on at halftime — busted into the box and managed to get a shot away. United goalkeeper Mary Earps, however, kept the ball out of the net with a sharp save.
In the 67th, Everton looked to have broken the deadlock with a rocket of a shot into the roof of United’s net. The shrill whistle of the head referee, however, indicated that it was, in fact, a United free kick, nullifying Everton’s short-lived celebration.
From the disappointment of seeing one goal rescinded, it only took Everton seven minutes to score what would end up being the game-winning goal. With Raso providing speed and flare on the wing, Everton were always destined to pull ahead. In the 74th, Raso tore down the left wing, crossed a picturesque pass to Graham, who did well to slot the ball past Earps.
With the visitors pushing for a late goal, it was Everton goalkeeper Sandy MacIver who came up big. With just eight minutes remaining in the contest, United midfielder Katie Zelem launched a shot from the top of the 18, only for MacIver to respond with an extended arm to push the ball over the net.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
While Lucy Graham’s provided the game-winning goal, the moment of the match comes from the postgame quotes and images.
“We came out with fight, did the basics well and got a result.” -Lucy Graham
“Good shift tonight! Nice little Wednesday all round for the Toffees. To the small number of fans that were allowed back in, you have been missed!” -Megan Finnigan
With fresh smiles and a palpable warmth on a frigid night, happiness returned to Goodison after several difficult weeks of football.
1. Lucy Graham
The captain. The midfield engine. The goal-scorer. Against United, Graham demonstrated why success for the Toffees starts with the Scottish international. Honest on defense, hard-working in the midfield and crafty in the final third, Graham contributes all over the pitch for this team.
2. Hayley Raso
Having established herself as one of the team’s top performers of the season, Raso continues to impress. Regardless of whether it is from the game’s first whistle or coming off the bench, Raso never fails to impose her will on a game. United’s defense knows best what a Raso-sized imprint looks like.
3. Damaris Egurrola
Damaris has performed admirably following the injury to Rikke Sevecke, one of Everton’s top defenders. Capable of playing in the midfield or on defense, Egurrola’s versatility has helped lessen the blow of Sevecke’s injury to Kirk’s defensive unit.
Everton (4-3-3): 1-Sandy MacIver; 2-Ingrid Moe Wold, 3- Danielle Turner, 12- Damaris Egurrola, 20-Megan Finnigan; 8-Izzy Christiansen, 13-Abbey-Leigh Stringer, 21-Maéva Clemaron; 10-Simone Magill, 14-Nicoline Sørensen, 17-Lucy Graham
Substitutes: 15-Molly Pike for Clemaron 45, 16-Hayley Raso for Magill 45, 30-Poppy Pattinson for Wold 63, 7-Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah for Sørensen 68, 26-Grace Clinton for Turner 88
Unused Substitutes: 31-Anna Pedersen
Goals: Graham 74
Bookings: Stringer 50
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): 27-Mary Earps; 3-Lotta Okvist, 5-Abbie McManus, 17-Ona Batlle, 21-Millie Turner; 12-Hayley Ladd, 14-Jackie Groenen; 9-Jessica Sigsworth, 10-Katie Zelem, 11-Leah Galton; 19-Jane Ross
Substitutes: 18-Kirsty Hanson for Galton 55, 77-Tobin Heath for Groenen 63, 7-Ella Toone for Sigsworth 63, 13-Ivana Fuso for Ross 76
Unused Substitutes: 4-Amy Turner, 20-Kirsty Smith, 22-Fran Bentley
Attendance: Limited capacity
LEAGUE CUP QUALIFICATION
With the competition truncated due to the COVID pandemic, the winners of the six groups will be joined with the two best second-placed teams to make a knockout pool of eight sides. Another new rule in place was that any draws were concluded with a penalty shootout, with the losers picking up the point for the draw. Everton collected six points from their three fixtures but lose out on goal difference.